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Parents take on Palaszczuk as state's boarder war escalates

Statewide

Community backlash against the State Government for allowing thousands to mass in protest over the weekend has emboldened frustrated parents in their attempts to have boarding schools fully reopened.

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A furious Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association Queensland president Tammie Irons has told InQueensland that her members remain incensed at the Government’s double-standard of permitting large gatherings for protest while closing the door on revising inconsistent school guidelines.

The conditions placed on boarding schools, which have been imposed since the end of Term 1, and differ starkly from the rules applied to children attending as day students, have left thousands of country teens stranded at home – many on isolated properties – to continue their schooling online.

Parents hold genuine fears for their children’s mental health if the restrictions are not lifted immediately.

Since InQueensland reported the boarding school battle last week, Irons said stories of rural families, already under the burden of drought and Covid-19 disruptions, were flooding-in, detailing a woeful picture of added financial hardship stemming from the government’s refusal to budge on the restrictions.

As previously reported, some parents are contemplating spends upwards of $10,000 in rent for city accommodation in order to support their children as day students, rather than endure another term at home, struggling with dodgy internet coverage and the “emotional rollercoaster” of children missing their peers.

In a last-ditch bid to achieve a breakthrough, Irons has written a letter to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young, calling for the restrictions to be overturned.

“Whilst everyone understands the basic premise of COVID-19 transmission and nobody wants to see an outbreak anywhere in schools, we feel that our boarding schools have worked tirelessly to implement extreme measures to ensure these facilities are some of the safest in the country,” Irons wrote.

“With these measures in place our children should all be allowed to get back to face-to-face educational instruction immediately.”

Despite another COVID-19 detection in Bundaberg in recent days, the Palaszczuk Government remains on track to move to Stage 3 easing of restrictions from July 10 as part of its Roadmap to Recovery.

With Term 3 due to officially start on July 13, Irons said the Government’s timeline won’t give parents adequate time to prepare their children’s schooling arrangements. She stressed the challenge in front of parents and children needed to be resolved as a matter of urgency.

A Queensland Health spokesman said department heads understood “the challenges facing boarding school families during this unprecedented time”.

“And Queensland Health appreciates the ICPA putting forward their concerns as we continue to ease restrictions across the State,” the spokesman said.

“These matters continue to be worked through with education authorities and we look forward to responding in due course.”

Further advice from Queensland Health requires boarding schools and school-based residential colleges to develop a COVID-19 risk management plan in consultation with their local Public Health Unit (PHU) prior to re-opening their facility.

As the ICPA Queensland has previously concluded, the risk management plans often lead to boarding schools restricting their numbers in dormitories drastically, sometimes by as much as 50 per cent.

In a scathing assessment of the government’s approach, Irons has expressed disappointment that boarding school leaders have seemingly lost the trust of health authorities to manage the safety of their students.

“Queensland boarding facilities, management and staff have our children’s whole wellbeing as the core purpose of their business; however they are not being allowed the opportunity to return to their normal function of housing and supporting children in their ‘home away from home’ journey,” she wrote.

“There is growing frustration and anger from rural and remote boarding families at what appears to be a hypocritical and inequitable set of guidelines being forced upon their students, when it is apparent that day students are exempt from the same set of guidelines.

“Day students are interacting daily on a much broader scale within the community and are now enjoying the easing of restrictions along with the rest of Queensland.

“Our boarding families are distressed with the apparent inconsistencies and the detrimental impact on their children’s educational outcomes, as well as their social and emotional wellbeing.”

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